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3 1833 01104 4143 








Vol. I. Xlx^tii Bulletin No. I. 

uakerism on l\i antucket 

(SMnce f 800, 




Nantucket Histouical association, 


. 4-; 'a'A* 



64456' Mass. 


1 .6 Bulletin... v. 1-3 (1896-1910) Nantucket, 
1896-1910. 1. 


c "j 7^ . j/o 2- No more Polished. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 n1 nant 


The following essay was prepared for the pi , 
indicating the causes that led to the melancholy di i; 
ance of Friends from Nantucket. Facts were tal* i'i 
original sources and statements of theological 
versies, were quoted from books of unquestioi 

Some historical digressions were necessary to ( 
the movements of the Nantucket Meetings. 

Terms used to designate different bodies of Fr 
which were derived from the names of prominent le, 
are employed not in disrespect, but because no other 
are as clear. Henry B. Wor' 

New Bedford, August 1, 1896. 







dred. It is not proposed to limit the membership to natives. All 
who are of Nantucket descent, and all visitors who are interested, 
are also urged to join the society. Anyone may become a member 
by paying one dollar a year; a life member by the payment of fifteen 
dollars; and a life councilor for fifty dollars. 

The Society appeals to all in sympathy with its object, to do- 
nate to it any document or relic of historical value. Copies of val- 
uable documents will be of much service. Copies of genealogical 
records and coats of arms will be regarded as of special value. It 
also wishes to collect and preserve likenesses of all persons of Nan- 
tucket origin who have been of note, either at home or abroad. It 
will gather together relics of the Indians; all evidences of the early 
life of our people, and of the condition of the island from the earliest 
time. It will seek to perpetuate the history of its industries. The 
scope of the society will be much wider than that of any written 
history of the island. It is not too late to secure a collection of 
objects of much historical interest, that will grow more and more 
valuable in future years. Nantucket is a small island, but it has 
contributed in proportion to its size and population more than its 
share to the upbuilding of our country. We ought to preserve with 
honest pride the memory of all who have been of special service 
either to our own island or to the world. Communications should 
be addressed to 


Corresponding Secretary. 


The Society of Friends on the Island of Nantucket 
reached its highest tide of membership and influence 
a few years prior to the opening of the present century. 

In the year 1792 they were using a meeting house 
located in the corner of their burying ground at the junc- 
tion of Main and Saratoga streets. This building was 
erected in 1730, and here the Friends had met for over 
sixty years. This location was once central and conven- 
ient, but the members had now moved nearer Nantucket 
harbor and their success in business siiggested a change. 
" 11th mo., 28, 1791. The Friends' Meeting decided that 
the remote situation of our meeting house being found in- 
convenient it gave rise in this meeting to a proposition of 
removing to a place more central and the propriety of 
dividing the body of Friends if a second house should be 
found useful." 

Two months later the committee reported favorably 
concerning both projects, "which being considered of is 
referred for further consideration to the next Monthly 
Meeting. In the meantime Friends are desired to invest 
their minds with due attention to the subject." 

The next month was taken another cautious step. In 
order that the most careful consideration should be devoted 
to the subject and no feature overlooked, "2 mo., 27, 
1792. This meeting appoints a committee of fourteen 
to investigate the expense of moving their meeting house 
and to enquire for a suitable place to build." 

The next month the committee reported "it would 
cost to move the old building and build a second one 900 
pounds. One piece of land was by David Collin's and 
the other between Jethro Starbuck and John Gardner." 

This report was accepted, and a building committee of 
4 twelve was chosen to receive conveyances of the lots and 
procure materials for a new house." 

The conveyances, dated April 12, 171)2, were taken 
in the names of Benjamin Barney, cooper, Jethro Mitchell, 
cooper, and Shubael Coffin, merchant, as overseers. 

One lot was bounded on the north by a highway, on the 
east by another highway, on the south by land of David 
Coffin, and on the west by land of Richard Mitchell. 

The streets of Nantucket were not then named. 

This lot was at the southwest corner of Main and Pleas- 
ant streets, where the dwelling house of the late Benjamin 
Coffin now stands. 

The other lot was " bounded on the south by a wide 
highway, on the east by land of Zacheus Macy, and west 
by land of Jethro Starbuck." 

The " wide highway" is now Broad street, and on this 
lot now stands the residence of the late Eben W. Allen, 
directly east from the Ocean House. 

These proceedings were well known to all the islanders. 
"The Congregational society having heard that the 
Friends were contemplating a change and that they might 
be put to some inconvenience for a place to meet in, 
passed a vote to offer the use of their meeting house to the 
Friends for the purpose of solemn worship whilst said re- 
moval might be accomplishing." 

But that committee of twelve had not overlooked such 
an important contingency. 

The meeting replied: "This meeting imprest with a 
due sense of their friendly intention & desirous to render 
them the acknowledgement do to so liberal & benevolent 
an offer, inform them that the necessity which they appre- 
hend is not likely to take place, this meeting having con- 
cluded to build a new house previous to the removal 
of the old." 

The new meeting house was fifty-six feet long and 
thirty-eight feet wide, and stood on the Broad street lot. 

On the Main street lot the old meeting house was re- 

Before the autumn of 1792 had passed the new house 
had been built and the old one removed. They paid for 
the change in two years. 

" 9 mo., £9, 1794. The building committee reported 
that they had completed building the new house and had 
moved the old one and had paid all the cost." 

At this time the population of Nantucket was about 5000 
and nearly one-half attended Friends Meeting. 


When the Friends had completed the change and had 
two meeting houses ready for use it became expedient to 
divide the membership into two bodies, each of which 
should attend a separate house. 

Meetings for worship were larger than business meet- 
ings, for on First days many attended meeting who were 
not members. While they needed two meeting houses for 
worship, one was enough for business meetings. 

They selected the most natural line for division, although 
it did not divide the members into two equal parts. 

" 12 mo., 31, 1792. The society is divided as follows : 
A line from the old wharf as far west as Sylvanus Star- 
buck's dwelling house (including said house with all who 
dwell on the south side of said street) beyond, taking its 
course in that direction to the shearing pen, with all who 
dwell to the south of said limits, to attend at the old meet- 
ing house, others to attend at the new meeting house." 

This line began at the Straight Wharf and extended 
westerly through the entire length of Main street and its 
continuations to the ponds. 

This division, however, was merely for convenience in 
worship. One corporation, the Nantucket Monthly Meet- 
ing, owned both buildings. 

The business meetings were held in the Main street 

Several meeting houses may belong to one Monthly 

Monthly Meetings of a certain section are governed by 
an organization called a Quarterly Meeting. This is 
composed of delegates from each Monthly Meeting. 

The Yearly Meeting is the supreme body and meets 
once a year, and is composed of delegates from the Quar- 
terly Meetings. 

Nantucket Monthly Meeting belonged to the Sandwich 
Quarterly Meeting and to the New England Yearly Meet- 

Not long after the division, those members who were as- 
signed to the Broad Street Meeting for worship desired to 
have a separate business meeting and to manage their 
affairs without connection with the Main Street Meeting. 
They desired to be a Distinct Monthly Meeting. 

" 1 mo., 27, 1794. The subject of a Distinct Monthly 
Meeting being allowed to the Friends who constitute the 
North Meeting referred to a committee." 

"2 mo., 21, 1794. The committee after solid and weighty 
attention therein are generally of opinion it will be 
best for said Friends to be set off' and be a Distinct Monthly 

The consent of the Sandwich Quarterly Meeting was 
obtained, and the Nantucket Monthly Meeting for the 
Northern District was duly organized. 

10 mo., 27, 1794. The North Meeting met for the 
first time, with William Rotch as clerk andjethro Mitchell 
as treasurer. As near as can be ascertained the North 
Meeting included about one-third of the Nantucket 

Friends, but here were more persons of wealth than at the 
old meeting. The Mitchells. Rotchs, Rodmans, Gard- 
ners, Joys and Swifts were members of this meeting. 

When the nineteenth century opened there were two 
Quaker meetings largely attended and flourishing, and 
the only other sect on the island was still struggling and 

The Friends had evidently founded an enduring strong- 
hold, and in the future were clear prospects of greater 

44 The men and women sat, the elder folk facing the 
younger, from their rising seats, with faces grave beneath 
the stiff straight brim or dusky bonnet. On the highest 
seats, where the low partition boards sundered the men 
and women, there alone sat they whom most the spirit 
visited and spake through them and gave authority." 

Yet unknown to themselves they had reached the pin- 
nacle of their prosperity, and soon would begin the 
decline that would be steady and relentless, until they 
should disappear from the Island. They heeded not the 
clouds that warned them of coming storms, but condemn- 
ing all change as dangerous, they sailed on in the cause 
given them two centuries before by George Fox, until 
stranded, shattered, and wrecked on one rock after 
another, they have almost vanished from the sea, and rival 
sects are now in undisputed dominion on the island. 

If a vision of coming time could have been given them 
with its changes and sad decay, we cannot doubt that 
they would gladly endeavored to avert such a calamity. 
They would never have been willing to permit the labors 
of a century thus to come to naught. It is therefore not 
amiss to assume that they did not appreciate where their 
course would lead. 

To-day a large part of the Friends have seen the errors 
of their ancestors, and have changed their course and are 
having some prosperity. 


But scattered through the world are small struggling 
bodies that claim to keep the faith and practice of their an- 
cestors without change, and although each year growing- 
less and less, they cannot see that their forefathers were in 
any error. Such mistaken and misguided zeal seems un- 
accountable. They seem to hope that in some mysterious 
way they will be restored to their former power and pres- 


There were five principal causes that led to the decline 
of the Quaker society at Nantucket. 

1. In the early years of this century considerable 
numbers of Nantucketers emigrated to Maine, New York 
and the West. Many of these were Friends, and their 
removal perceptably reduced the Nantucket meetings. 

2. The loss to Nantucket merchants by French 
Spoliations and the war of 1812 caused great financial 
change to the Nantucket Quakers. Their property en- 
tirely disappeared. 

While it is true that Friends are under less expense than 
other people, yet there is great prestige in having wealthy 
persons among the members of a society. The losses by 
the Mitchells and Gardners and others must have had a 
depressing effect on the Nantucket Friends. 

3. The literature of the year 1800 was very hostile to 
religious thought, and members who followed the sea 
could not help feeling its influence. They became in- 
different when at home, and were disowned for not attend- 
ing meetings. 

4. The establishment of a Methodist society on the 
island, which met in the attic of a house on Fair street. 
Here was the same zeal that now characterizes the Salva- 
tion Army, and the place was called "Glory Hole." 

Children of Friends were attracted by this vigorous 
religious body and left their parents' meeting. 

"5 mo., 20, 1821. E. S. disowned lor attending the 
Methodist church." 

5. But the most potent cause of decline was the en- 
forcement of their discipline. Here the Friends were un- 
relenting in disowning their members for acts not immoral. 
Their treatment was so severe that it brought discredit 
instead of respect, and on this account persons outside were 

There is in mankind a sense of fairness which 
accurately measures all penalties. This sense must not 
be offended if any religious body would obtain additions 
from those outside. 

One Friend wrote: " It has been my lot to see many 
cases of disownment of members from which my own 
feelings revolted, and in which the benevolent feelings of 
valuable Friends appeared to have been violated to uphold 
the discipline. I have seen men of natural kindness and 
tendencies become hard hearted and severe. I have seen 
justice turned back and mercy laid aside." 

At Nantucket, while the highest penalty was excom- 
munication, it was considered a great loss and disgrace, 
although the accused was conscious of no wrong. Then 
there were no degrees in the penalties. Disownment was 
the only penalty for all offences great and small. 

A few quotations will now be given of accusations for 
which persons were disowned. They are samples of 
large classes. 

" 2 mo., 27, 1800. Henry Barnard had gone to sea in 
an armed vessel." 

If they had known that he joined the Freemasons live 
years before, he would have been disowned sooner for that. 

" 1 mo., 28, 1801. L. II. was disowned for deviating 
from our principles in dress and address." 



Tic persisted in wearing buckles, and refused to say 
"thee" and "thou." 

«' % mo., 25, 1801. D. C. had married a member of 
another society, and J. J. was keeping company with 
a man not in membership with us and attended a place 
where there was music and dancing." 

" 10 mo., 28, 1801. Levi Joy was living in Hudson, 
New York, though still a member of the Nantucket Meet- 
ing. The Nantucket Meeting requested the Hudson 
Meeting to treat with him on account of a charge that 
he had joined the Freemasons. That meeting replied 
that Joy denied being a member of that society. This 
evasive reply was promptly rejected and the Hudson 
Meeting informed 'that the time and place of his initiation 
among them and the circumstances of the case have been 
ascertained,' and requested them to investigate further. 
Several months afterward the Hudson Meeting replied 
that 'Joy admitted that he was once among the Free- 
masons in their embodied capacity, and never but once, 
and had no desire to meet with them again in like 
manner,' and suggested that he be pardoned, which was 

"7 mo., 6, 1803. H. C. had deviated in dress and 
address from the plainness of our profession, and F. 
H. had deviated from our principles in dress, particularly 
in tying the hair." 

"4 mo., 30, 1806. D. G. had gone out in marriage 
with a woman in New York." 

" 11 mo., 29, 1800. H. 13. G. had.attended a marriage 
performed by a minister, where there was music and 
dancing, in which he was a partaker." 

" 10 mo., 31, 1810. N. M. attended a marriage per- 
formed by a minister." 

"3 mo., 20, 1812. M. R. had been dealing in and 
handling spirituous liquors." 


" 11 mo., 25, 1815. S. C. had sailed in a privateer." 

" 10 mo., 29, 1818. II. G. had partaken too freely of 
spirituous liquors." 

"5 mo., 31, 1821. W. G. II. joined a company 
at a hall and was concerned in a lottery." 

"7 mo., 25, 1821. A. F. had permitted his daughter 
to he married in his dwelling house by a minister." 

"5 mo., 30, 1822. C- G. C. had married a woman not 
a member." 

And yet for over half a century afterward he was one of 
Nantucket's most kindly and benevolent citizens and 
prominently connected with the Coflin school and Athe- 

"5 mo., 31, 1824. L. C. had neglected the meetings 
and frequented those of the Methodist society." 

Such were the austerities of their discipline. 

Dishonorable failures were promptly condemned. 

"3 mo., 26, 1812. E. M. had launched into business 
beyond his ability and cannot pay his just debts." 

" (> mo., 9, 1813. S. M. had failed in the performance 
of his promises and cannot pay but a small dividend." 

It must not be concluded that such severity existed 
solely in Nantucket. It was everywhere the same. 

Persons marrying contrary to the society's rules were 
disowned unless they repented in writing. One woman 
said she was disowned for the best act of her life. 

In one case parents were forbidden to bequeath prop- 
erty to such a child who had been disowned. 

One physician was disowned for certifying that certain 
soldiers were disabled by wounds and suitable for 

At one period Friends thought it justifiable to visit their 
members and with instruments remove ornaments from 

It was common practice for Friends to attend marriages 


of their Gentile acquaintances, if only they were out of the 
room when the marriage ceremony was being performed. 

Once over thirty persons left the room and returned 
after the marriage had been performed by a minister, and 
thus escaped disownment. 

A prominent English Quakeress said : "I cannot deny 
that much as I love the principles of Quakerism, bitter 
experience has proved to me that Friends do rest too 
much in externals, and that valuable as are many of them 
yet there are also serious evils in our society among its mem- 
bers. These cause me real anxiety and pain and reconcile 
me to so many of my children being disowned." 

The far-reaching consequences of these numerous dis- 
ownments were never measured or considered. Ties of 
blood and marriage are always strong. If a member of a 
family was set aside for some frivolous offence, others of 
the family were likely to follow, and those disowned 
usually went to another meeting. 

These losses were not compensated by additions, for 
leaving out of account children of Quaker parentage who 
were members by birth, other additions were not over 
one in five years, while the disownments were often fifty 
a year. 

Although it is difficult to estimate the exact loss to the 
Quaker society on account of any particular cause, yet 
the influential cause was the enforcement of unnatural 
regulations regarding marriage. In this particular, expe- 
rience shows that the human heart generally without 
restraint follows its own inclinations. Sometimes educa- 
tion, public opinion, and persuasion may exert an influence 
on the choice, but compulsory requirements never will 
succeed. It has been stated without objection that fully 
one-third of the Friends who married before 1850 chose 
partners not members of the society, and thus lost their 


Of these almost none are reinstated, for having com- 
mitted no moral offence, and being disowned for an act that 
may have added greatly to their happiness they have no 
wish to return to a body towards which they entertain only 
feelings of disgust. 

From the beginning of this century to the present time 
such marriages have increased in frequency, and the fact 
that disownment for this course is now mentioned as a joke 
is a proof of the impotency of the penalty. 

In relation to this discipline it should be stated that in 
New England at this time are three sects of (Quakers. 

1. The Nantucket Meeting. 

3. The Wilburite Meeting. 

3. The Gurney Meeting, or New England Yearly 

The censorious discipline is now carried out in its full- 
ness by the first two. 

In the Gurney body has been a great change. In the 
last book of discipline published by the New England 
Yearly Meeting marrying non-members is no cause for 
disownment. Attending meetings of other societies is not 
forbidden, and dress is no longer a subject for discipline. 
Members may belong to secret societies if "the cause of 
truth do not suffer," and they can hold public ollice. 

Before 1852 a Quaker burial ground resembled a pas- 
ture lot or hay field. Now there are seen grave stones 
fifteen inches high. 

Formerly there were twenty-seven causes for disown- 
ment, not including crimes. Now there are eleven de- 
linquencies for which members may be set aside. 

In the Friends school at Providence, Rhode Island, 
which is managed by the New England Yearly Meeting, 
are provided for use of the students nine pianos, and 
music, vocal and instrumental, are on their curriculum. 
All these departures have been made in recent years in 
the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. 

T 4 

In a recent number of an English periodical in the 
interest of the strict class of Friends mention was made oi 
honors conferred in English universities on children of 
Quaker parentage. One of these had taken first honors 
in insrtumental music. 

Thus they reduced their membership in excess of the 
additions. The interest of members in their meetings 
was sadly declining. 

Instead of two strong flourishing meetings, as at the 
opening of the century, there were at Nantucket two 
remnants, and it was thought best to combine them. The 
weakest body was at Broad street. It was therefore 
decided to discontinue it. 

"5 mo., 13, 1829. The Nantucket Meeting for the 
Northern District was dissolved and its property and mem- 
bers transferred to the old meeting." 

The Broad street meeting house was used as a place of 
worship until September, 1833, when it was sold by the 
Friends. It was afterwards rebuilt and became a part of 
the beautiful Trinity Episcopal church, which was burned 
in the fire of 1846. 

Such was the irony of Fate. A Quaker meeting was 
discontinued and its house of worship transformed into 
an Episcopal church, where the High Church ceremonials 
prevailed and the rector was a zealous disciple of Newman 
and the Tractarians. 


During the first thirty years of this century disownments 
were based exclusively on irregularities or omissions 
in conduct. 

None had been disowned on account of doctrinal views, 
but now a new and more insidious foe had appeared and 
was walking about the land. It had paused at Philadel- 
phia and New York, and had carried away captive large 


numbers of Friends. Some of these in New York had 
relatives at Nantucket. Stalwart Friends in New York 
and Philadelphia, who had withstood the enemy, warned 
their brethren at Nantucket, who had time to prepare for 
the expected invasion. Several years they waited, and at 
last in the summer of 1830 it appeared on the island. It 
was merely a Hicksite preacher, but that meant a moun- 

Elias I licks, a Quaker Minister after a long ministry, 
was charged with teaching false doctrines. He lived on 
Long Island and carried on farming. Mis power as an 
orator has been likened to that of Webster and Everett. 
In his published sermons certain stalwart Friends in Phil- 
adelphia discovered evidences that Hicks doubted the 
inspiration of the Bible, the deity of the Messiah, and the 
personality of the devil. So they led against him a fierce 
attack, which continued several years and resulted in a 
division of the society in Baltimore and Pennsylvania, and 
New York, in which a larger part approved Hicks' views 
and the smaller body remained orthodox. This was the 
first rift in the Quaker society. Each, part claimed to hold 
the truth. 

On the controverted points Hicks denied that he held 
any views different from George Fox, who was the stand- 
ard. Judged by his sermons, Hicks was as orthodox 
as one-half of the Protestant clergy of to-day. 

It seems that in the early summer of 1880 a Hicksite 
minister visited Nantucket and appointed a meeting to be 
held in some building not a church. Quite likely he came 
from New York and was welcomed by tlie relatives 
of his New York Friends. Some of the members of 
the Nantucket Meeting "publicly gave countenance to this 
affair by assisting the minister to procure a meeting house 
other than that of Friends for a meeting called by that 
person not in unity with Friends, and they attended that 


meeting, for which breaches of order no satisfaction was 
obtained from them." 

Friends could punish any disorderly conduct. So 
all that became necessary was to call any objectionable 
act a "disorder" and it could be punished. By the 
experience of several years, Friends in Nantucket were 
advised that this was the only safe way to deal with the 
Hicksite movement. If any member was discovered lean- 
ing that way, call him "disorderly" and disown him. It is 
altogether likely that the minister was known to them as a 
Hicksite by reputation. The only other fact was to ascer- 
tain who gave him any welcome and call it a "disorder" 
and disown them. So eager were they to throttle the in- 
vading monster that they never even charged that their 
members approved the minister's preaching. 

To punish these acts as "disorderly" was easy, summary 
and effective, even if unjust. A busy summer followed. 

Gilbert Coffin, Silvanus Macy, Roland Hussey, Obed 
Barney, Daniel Mitchell, William B. Coffin, Charles Pit- 
man, Gideon Swain, Matthew Myrick, William Watson, 
Thomas Macy, Peter Macy, Obed Macy, and their wives 
and others had been in some way connected with the 
Hicksite meeting and were disowned. These persons 
were prominent and influential and were a loss to the 
meeting, both in membership and prestige. 

Nowhere else in New England did the Ilicksite move- 
ment appear, and the reason for its appearance at Nan- 
tucket may be that the Ilicksite leaders in New York City 
had relatives in Nantucket whom they had probably made 
familiar with Hicks' views. 

It is estimated that of the whole Friends society in the 
world two-fifths became Hicksites. In Nantucket the 
number scarcely reached one-fifth. 

The Nantucket Hicksites organized a meeting under the 
Westbury Quarterly Meeting on Long Island, and March 


23, 1833, through their overseers, Gilbert Coffin, Obecl 
and Peter Macy, purchased a lot on Main street, where 
now stands the residence ot" William T. Swain. On this 
lot they erected a large meeting house, where they met 
several years. When their members became reduced the 
meeting house property was sold, and the building was 
afterwards used for the straw business and was called 
Atlantic Hall. A few years ago it was taken down and is 
now the middle section of Hotel Nantucket. The mem- 
bers who were left mostly attended the Unitarian Church, 
lending some credit to the popular impression that Hicks- 
ites are Unitarian Quakers. 

Thus the Nantucket Meeting successfully liberated them- 
selves from those they considered heretical parasites. It 
had been done quickly and easily. They did in two 
months what was pending several years in Philadelphia. 

Elias Hicks visited Nantucket in June, 1793, nearly 
thirty years before his name became associated with false 


The Friends had not the control of the island as in former 

The Methodists had two churches, one on lower Fair 
Street and the other on corner of Centre and Liberty 
Streets. Here was fiery preaching, lively music and 
delirious excitement called "slaying power." 

Imagine the horror of those solid Friends at hearing 
that one of their members had attended a revival at the 
"Teaser" meeting house ! 

A Universalist society had become organized and had 
bought land for a meeting house. 

The North Congregational church was crowded and 
they were contemplating building a larger meeting house. 
Plere and also at the Second Congregational Meeting 


House on Orange street, now called Unitarian, was cul- 
tured preaching and Puritan music. "Solid men sat 
in the pews. Every Sunday millions of money listened 
to the preachers. The Unitarians were rich enough to 
build their church of mahogany." 

These were powerful forces and drew many from the 
Friends society. 

It was decided in the spring of 1833 to seek a different 
location. The meeting house on Main street was no longer 

CD J~> 

convenient. So their overseers, Samuel Mac}'", Hezekiah 
Swain, Zenas Gardner, Cromwell Barnard, Kimball 
Starbuck, Prince Gardner, Laban Paddock, Peleg 
Mitchell and Charles G. Stubbs, purchased a lot on 
the west side of Fair street, between Ray's court and 
Moore's lane. On the south part of the lot was erected a 
meeting house, and in the building on the north side of the 
lot was maintained a Friends school, where at one time 
John Boadle taught down stairs and Alice Mitchell up- 

The meeting house stood where now is the residence of 
William M. Barrett, and the schoolhouse and lot are the 
property of the Nantucket Historical Association. 

tk 9 mo., 1, 1833. The new meeting house was used. 
The old meeting house was sold to Charles G. and Henry 
Collin, and the building removed to the Commercial wharf 
for a warehouse." 

A singular experience befell one of these overseers. 

k< 6 mo., 27, 1833. Cromwell Barnard was drawn on 
the jury and inadvertently administered a formal oath to a 
witness. The meeting heard of it, and excused him only 
after he had made a written acknowledgement of his 

"4 mo., 26, 1835. A library of one hundred thirty- 
nine books was placed in the meeting house." 

It was evidently thought that if suitable literature could 

l 9 

be read by Friends some of the hostile influences of that 
day would be counteracted and members held faithful 
to the meeting. 

But notwithstanding all efforts to the contrary, during 
the decade from 1835 to 1845 there was a continually in- 
creasing indifference. Many were disowned for marrying 
contrary to the rules of the society and lor not attending 
meetings. Their numbers were fast diminishing. 

" 8 mo., 31, 1843. Maria Mitchell, daughter of Will- 
iam Mitchell, was disowned because she had neglected 
the meetings, and told the committee that her mind was 
not settled on religious subjects and that she had no wish 
to retain her right in membership." 

The beauty of a thousand stars in the canopy of 
heaven was more congenial. 

The meeting was losing its power and prestige. The 
force and influence of Quaker principles were on the 
wane. Some dread catastrophe was casting its shadow 

Those who had met the Hicksite invasion into New 
England, conquered it and seen it disappear from the 
island were now called to a more disheartening conflict. 
Their victory over the Hicksites had been easy, for they 
had the support of all the Friends in New England, 
but in the comincr contest every meeting; in New England 
would be against them, and they would themselves be 

The new enemy had already appeared even before the 
end of the Hicksite movement, but the attention of Friends 
was so engrossed by the latter that it for a time over- 
shadowed the former. Thus when the Hicksite struggle 
was ended and the two parties had separated, the Orthodox 
American Friends turned their attention towards the new 
heresy that was progressing in England and America. 

About the year 1818 a systematic study of the Scriptures 


and catechising- thereon was introduced in the Friends 
school at Ackworth. Joseph John Gurney is stated to 
have been the chief promoter of this change. I lis 
attempt to encourage a study of the Scriptures as the sole 
guide in religion brought on him severe attacks by 
Friends, who asserted that the Inner Light beincr the 
Divine Spirit shedding its light in the human heart was the 
primary guide and the Scriptures were secondary. 

Here began the thirty years' struggle commonly known 
as the Gurneyite movement, although it became well 
defined not before 1832. 


Joseph John Gurney was the son of a wealthy English 
Quaker family ; was highly educated in English universi- 
ties, and by his eloquence and polished discourse became 
a preacher of great power in the Quaker society, and 
gained great popularity both in England and America. 
His sermons contained statements from which the stal- 
wart American Friends decided that here was a man 
more dangerous than Elias Hicks. 

They asserted that Friends could not tell beforehand 
what the spirit would direct them to do in a meeting, and 
as they were not moved until assembled in meeting there 
could be no preparation. There was no priest, no sacra- 
ment, no liturgy, no hymn book, not even a Bible. It 
was an assembly of human souls gathered in solemn still- 
ness, waiting until God should speak through one of them to 
the rest. If a minister was discovered making any prepara- 
tion for a meeting, she was said to be t4 going before her 
guide," and she was deposed and silenced. With this cardi. 
nal principle emphasized and reiterated on all possible oc- 
casions, it was with great uneasiness that American 
Friends learned that Gurney actually carried a Bible 


to meeting and read from it. They also claimed that he 
prepared his discourses beforehand. This was not Quaker 
dependence on the Holy Spirit. The error of Hicks was 
in repudiating the Bible. The error of Gurney was in re- 
pudiating the Spirit. Gurney therefore was as dangerous 
as the other, and in 1838 the American Friends began 
a seven years' conflict with the purpose of having Gurney 
silenced by the London Yearly Meeting. Every move- 
ment must have a leader, and these persons attacking 
Gurney selected John Wilbur of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, 
whose vigor and rigor proved entirely adequate to the 

Gurney visited most of the meetings in America and 
Europe and met with great success. He visited Nantucket 
July, 1838, and was the guest of Cromwell Barnard. 

Wilbur by voice and pen met with less success, for in 
Great Britain all the meetings had approved Gurney's 

The bitterest contest was carried on in New England. 
It seems that Wilbur differed from Gurney in only four 
particulars : 

1. Whether justification precedes or follows sanctilica- 

2. The true reason for observing the first day of the 
week instead of the seventh. 

3. Whether in the next world will be given natural or 
spiritual bodies? 

4. Whether the Holy Spirit or the Bible is the true re- 
ligious guide? 

The first three points in dispute are entirely unessential 
and any discussion of them would be without profit. 

George Fox taught that the Holy Spirit could be 
received by believers so as to become an Inner Light, mak- 
ing clear the path to follow, and that no other guide was 
as infallible. The Bible was of secondary importance. 


Until the time ot Gurney emphasis was placed on the 
Inner Light, instead of the Bible, but Gurney discovered an 
inconsistency among the Friends. Ministers had been ac- 
cused of teaching false doctrine. They claimed to speak 
what the spirit taught them, and yet they were condemned 
by the society of Friends and their teaching was proved 
to be false by quotations from the Bible. If a man's light 
differed from the Bible, he was judged not to have the 
true light. If, therefore, the Bible was the final authority, 
Gurney recommended that it be so considered ; that it be 
carefully studied by young and old ; that Bible schools be 
established ; that societies be organized for the wider cir- 
culation of the Scriptures. Some of Gurnew's friends in 
England joined with a number of Episcopal bishops in the 
formation of a Bible society. This was highly offensive 
to the stalwart American Friends. 

Thus did the bitterest of conflicts proceed, and New 
England became divided into two bitter factions, the Gur- 
neyites and Wilburites. 

The crisis was reached in 1845 at Newport in the New 
England Yearly Meeting. 

In several of the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings, there 
had been divisions into Wilburite and Gurneyite bodies, 
each claiming to be the true organization. These and other 
matters came before the Yearly Meeting, the court of last 
resort for final adjudication. 

The larger part of the prominent Nantucket Friends 
had joined the Wilbur party, aiid were ready in the 
Yearly Meeting to offer stout resistance to the advance of 
the Gurney party. 

It was evident that the Yearly Meeting had overwhelm- 
ingly adopted the views of Gurney, and if majorities had 
ruled, as in other bodies, the Wilbur party would have 
had little opportunity to be heard. 

Owino; to a curious feature in the government of the 


Quaker society, a small minority has an opportunity 
to make a vigorous and often successful contest. It arises 
in the selection of a clerk for the meeting", whose power is 
almost supreme. Usually in secular bodies the first strug- 
gle is to obtain a majority in number, and then the majority 
by vote controls all subsequent matters. But in a Friends' 
Meeting there is no chairman and no voting ; conse- 
quently numbers do not count. 

The clerk decides what is the sense of the meeting and 
then he "makes a minute of it, "or makes a record of it. 

When a Friends' Meeting is to take action the clerk an- 
nounces the subject and awaits the expression of the 
members. After all the members that wish have ex- 
pressed themselves the clerk thereupon decides what is the 
solid weighty sense of the meeting. It may not be the 
view of the majority ; but taking into account the age, 
piety, experience and position of those expressing them- 
selves he decides what is the view of the solid and weighty 
members. This view must be what he thinks most sensi- 
ble. The sense of the meeting may become the view of 
the clerk. 

The difficulty and delicacy of the duty imposed on the 
clerk of collecting and recording the judgment of the 
meeting without a vote being taken is so great that 
in times of excitement and conflicting opinions few persons 
can be found competent to the task, for however impartial 
the clerk it is always difficult for him not to be influenced 
by his own views and sympathies. It therefore follows 
from this that the clerk may declare the judgment of the 
meeting to be according to the view of the minority, and 
so the minority governs the meeting. This actually 
happened in the city of Philadelphia. 

Nor does his power end here, for having decided what 
is the sense of the meeting whatever record the clerk 
makes is conclusive and can never be altered, corrected or 


changed. With such an opportunity for the minority to 
govern a few are often encouraged to convince the clerk 
that their view is the sensible one, and if successful he 
will make a minute in their favor. It should be stated 
that when there is a great difference of opinion among the 
members an impartial clerk will make a minute postpon- 
ing the subject till the next meeting, but usually the clerks 
in times of excitement are not so impartial but decide in 
favor of one party. 

The first act at the opening of a new meeting is to elect 
a new clerk. For this purpose the old clerk presides. 
Whichever party he favors will thereafter control the 
organization. For with a clerk in their favor a few could 
overcome a multitude. Such a decisive advantage is this 
that the entire contest in a division is waged on this 
point. If a contesting party cannot elect their clerk they 
always withdraw. This is their way of settling a di- 

At this session of the Yearly Meeting the Wilburites, 
under the leadership of Prince Gardner of Nantucket, 
tried to secure the selection of Thomas B. Gould of New- 
port as clerk, but the clerk of the previous year, who was 
to decide the sense of the meeting, being a Gurneyite, 
found the sense of the meeting to be that he himself 
should continue to be clerk. When he made this minute 
the Wilburites withdrew to a Baptist Church near by and 
organized what they called the New England Yearly 

Several years later the Supreme Court of Massachu- 
setts was sought to pass upon the respective rights of these 
two meetings. 

There is in Fall River on North Main Street a plain 
white building, which in 1844 belonged to the Swansea 
Monthly Meeting, which was largely Gurneyite. This 
meeting divided into two bodies, the Gurney body 


being much larger, each claiming to be the true Swansea 
Monthly Meeting, and both selected overseers, who are 
the officers to take charge of the societies' property. 

The Wilburite overseers succeeded in getting control of 
the Fall River meeting house and would not surrender it. 
The matter was carried to the Quarterly Meeting, but here 
was a division. There was a Gurney Quarterly Meeting 
and a Wilbur Quarterly Meeting. So the Yearly Meeting- 
was called upon to decide the controversy. But as here 
was also a division a suit was brought in the courts of 
Massachusetts by the Gurney overseers for possession of 
the Fall River meeting house. The Supreme Court, in a 
lengthy opinion, decided that the Gurney Yearly Meeting 
was, the true meeting and that the Wilburites were 
seceders, and so not entitled to any of the property of the 
meeting which they had left. Moreover it was there stated 
by Judge Shaw that the unhappy division between the 
Wilburites and Gurneyites arose from an apprehension of 
the former that the latter were disseminating false doc- 
trines, "of which," he said, "there was no evidence." 

The points of difference seem to be exceedingly trivial, 
and one Friend told me that the real cause for the ill will 
which John Wilbur entertained towards Gurney was due 
to the fact that when Wilbur visited England he was not 
allowed to smoke in Gurney's house. 

Thus was accomplished in the New England Yearly 
meeting a division into two bodies, of which the Gurney 
body comprised about nine-tenths of the meeting. 

After the contest between the two bodies in the Yearly 
Meeting at Newport some of the Wilbur party took a trip 
to Nantucket. At a first day meeting Thomas B. Gould 
arose to preach. Cromwell Barnard, who was the leading 
Gurney advocate at Nantucket, interrupted him, saying : 
"Friend, thee can sit down." Peleg Mitchell then said : 


"Friend, thee can go on." Oilier elders expressed their 
views. Women were greatly agitated and in tears, and 
some went out. Gould continued and finished his dis- 

This disturbance indicated clearly how the two parties 
were arrayed, although there had been no separation. It 
was evident that a separation would result, and it was also 
certain that Cromwell Barnard, William Mitchell and 
Abram R. Wing would lead one body, and that Prince 
Gardner and Peleg Mitchell the other. Soon after the 
occasion offered and the result was decisive. 

The division took place in July, 1845, when the Sand- 
wich Quarterly Meeting, which was largely Gurneyite, 
met in Nantucket, but the Nantucket delegates were Wil- 

When the meeting was opened reports from every 
Monthly Meeting were presented except Nantucket, 
although the Nantucket delegates were present, also John 
Wilbur and some of his Friends. When the report of the 
Nantucket Meeting was requested Ilezekiah Barnard 
stated that he had the report but they had concluded 
to withhold it, adding "that a separation must and would 
take place." An attempt was then made to appoint Peleg 
Mitchell as clerk. This was opposed by the Gurney 
party, as he had been identified with the separatists at 
Newport. John Wilbur and his friends when re- 
quested would not leave the hall, so the Quarterly Meet- 
ing adjourned until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. In the 
meantime the Wilbur party had remained and organized 
what they called the Sandwich Quarterly Meeting. At 4 
o'clock, when the adjourned meeting reassembled, the 
Wilburites had gone. 

The Nantucket Meeting had thus withdrawn from the 
Quarterly Meeting, but there were members of the Nan- 
tucket Meeting that remained loyal. They were in 

sympathy witli Gurney. The Quarterly Meeting encour- 
aged them to continue the Monthly Meeting, which was 
accordingly done in July, 1845. 

There was effected a division of the Nantucket Meeting 
into a Gurney body and a Wilbur body. It is stated by 
the Gurney body that they numbered 88 and that the Wil- 
bur body numbered 140, and that 79 were either at sea or 
feeble, and were doubtful. Assuming that the doubtful 
ones were equally divided between the two bodies there 
would have been about 130 Gurney and ISO Wilbur 
Friends. So the stalwarts at Nantucket were in the 
majority, which was not true in any other meeting in New 

The Supreme Court decision in the case of the Fall 
River meeting house leaves no doubt that the Wilbur body 
were separatists and the Gurney body were true continu- 
ing Friends, and as such entitled to all the property. 
The matter of property will be dealt witli again in connec- 
tion with the meetings, each of which will now be treated 
separately. Before the separation the meeting had prop- 
erty that cost $21,000. This was held by the Fair Street 
Friends, together with many volumes of records of births, 
deaths, marriages, and doings of the meetings from their 
commencement to that date. These records while on 
Nantucket were not allowed to be examined by any one 
not a member. 


Those Nantucket Friends who continued loyal to the 
New England Yearly Meeting, under the advice of the 
Sandwich Quarterly Meeting, met in the house of Crom- 
well Barnard and denominated themselves the Nantucket 
Monthly Meeting of FYiends. As Peleg Mitchell had 
identified himself with the other body he was adjudged no 
longer suitable as clerk, and in his place was chosen 


his brother William, ^and a demand was made to the Fair 
Street Meeting for the records, meeting house and other 
property, to which demand no attention was given. 
They then appointed Cromwell Barnard, Obed Fitch and 
Kimball Starbnck overseers, Abram R. Wing recorder, 
and Seth Mitchell treasurer. 

"8 mo., 2, 1845. The committee reported that they 
had secured the house recently occupied by Elizabeth 
Chase on Winter street, which is in readiness for our 
meeting to-morrow." 

This was the Abner Coffin house and stood where is 
now the Coffin school. 

" 1 mo., 1, 1840. The committee had seen the agent of 
the Main street house built by the Hicksites, and he had 
agreed to let this meeting have it for $150 per year." 

Here they continued to meet until November 28, 1850, 
when the meeting house on Center street had been 

Aside from attending to their own business, the Gurney 
meeting was now required to deal with the Friends who 
had separated. So a book was procured and in it were 
written the names of all the members before the separation. 
They then proceeded to disown those who attended the 
Fair Street Meeting. 

The following were among those disowned because 
they withdrew from fellowship with the New England 
Yearly Meeting : — 

Frederick Arthur, Rachel Hussey, 

Mary Arthur, David G. Hussey, 

James Austin, Elizabeth Hussey, 

John Boadle, Benjamin Hussey, 

Hezekiah Barnard, Gorham Hussey, 

Mary Barnard, Lydia M. Hussey, 

Susan Barnard, llepsibeth C. Hussey, 

Alexander G. Coffin, Nancy Hussey, 

2 9 

John L. Coffin, 
Joseph G. Coleman, 
Phebe Coffin, 
Rebecca Coffin, 
Susan Coffin, 
John G. Coffin, 
Elizabeth Coffin, 
John Franklin Coleman 
Eliza Coleman, 
Anna Clark, 
James B. Coleman, 
Lydia Coleman, 
Elizabeth Clark, 
Sally Easton, 
Eliza Ann Easton, 
John Folger, 
Lydia Folger, 
Hannah Maria Gardner 
Prince Gardner, 
Mary Gardner, 
Benjamin Gardner, 
Rachel Gardner, 
Elizabeth Gorham, 

Lydia G. Hussey, 
Lydia Monroe, 
Alice Mitchell, 
Moses Mitchell, 
David Mitchell, 
Peleg Mitchell, 
Mary S. Mitchell, 
Susan Mitchell, 
Mary Macy, 
Deborah Paddack, 
Eunice Paddack, 
Laban Paddack, 
Mary Paddack, 
John Paddack, 
Sarah Paddack, 
Micajah Swain, 
Hezekiah Swain, 
Lydia Swain, 
Obed B. Swain, 
Eunice Swain, 
Margaret Swain, 
Joseph B. Swain, 
Richard G. Swain. 

The property held by the Fair Street Meeting com- 
prised the meeting house, poor house, burial ground, the 
old records, and about $7000. Possession could only be 
obtained by a law suit, and this the Yearly Meeting dis- 
couraged, as it would be a contest in which relatives 
would be at strife with relatives. The records were never 
afterwards demanded, and remained in the custody of the 
Fair Street Friends. 

In 1864 the Fair Street real estate was sold and the pro- 
ceeds divided between the two meetings. The money 
was divided by agreement. 


According to the decision of the courts, the Fair Street 
Meeting had lost their rights to the burial ground. But 

O fc> fc> 

this was not enforced, and the Fair Street Friends were 
permitted to use the south end and the others used the 
north end. So there are grave stones in the north part, 
but none in the south part. 

The members of the Gurney Meeting lost heavily by 
the great fire of 1846, and they were compelled to request 
assistance from the Quarterly Meeting. After this they 
improved in financial strength, and in May, 1850, a com- 
mittee was appointed to select the location of a meeting 
house. The next month they reported that a lot on Center 
Street would cost $500 and one on Liberty street would 
cost $350, and considering the cost they recommended the 
Liberty Street lot, where is now the residence of David W. 
Burgess. But for reasons not known the Center Street 
lot was selected, and November £8, 1850, William Mitchell 
and Herman Crocker reported that they had completed 
building the new meeting house, which cost separate from 
the land nearly $1500. 

An important addition to their numbers in 1857 was 
Christopher C. Hussey, who withdrew in I860, and 
became a prominent clergyman in the Unitarian Church. 

The Center Street Meeting continued until 1806. Its 
membership became so reduced and scattered that it was 
deemed best to discontinue it, and its last meeting was 
held January 10, 1867, when it decided to be disolved and 
transferred with all its property to** the New Bedford 
Monthly Meeting. 

This property comprised : — 

1. Meeting house, Center Street. 

2. Interest in Friends' Asylum. 
One share in the old North Wharf. 
Burial ground held with Fair Street Friends. 
Cash, four hundred and \\t\y dollars. 



The Center Street property is still owned by the New 
Bedford Monthly Meeting, and is used for worship when- 
ever thought desirable. 

During the thirty-two years of its existence live mar- 
riages took place in the Center Street Meeting. 


Ed ward Sutton to Sarah Gale. 
Moses Farnham to Mary B. Allen. 


Samuel P. Johnson to Martha Ilussey. 


Presbrey Wing to Sarah Barker. 
Owen Dame to Eliza C. Mitchell. 

Thomas Macy, who was disowned as a Hicksite twenty- 
eight years before, in 1858 became a member of this 

At the present time there remain but two members who 
were enrolled in the organization in July, 1815 — Matthew 
Barney and William Hosier. 


After the separation in 1845 and the Gurney body had 
organized its meeting, it was at once denominated ^spuri- 
ous" by the Fair Street Friends, and all who attended 
it were disowned from the Wilbur body. 

Among those disowned were the followin-g, viz. : 

Elizabeth Austin, Miriam Starbuck, 

Cromwell Barnard, Abigail Allen, 

Susanna Coleman, Matthew Barney, 

Deborah Coffin, Lydia Bunker, 


Lydia Coffin, 
Lydia Fish, 
Hannah Gardner, 
Robert B. Hussey, 
Hannah Hussey, 
Judith Hussey, 
Cyrus Hussey, 
Lydia Hussey, 
Benjamin Mitchell, 
William Mitchell, 

Robert Coffin, 
Herman Crocker, 
George Easton, 
William Hosier, 
Lydia Hosier, 
Obed Fitch, 
Kimball Starbuek, 
Rachel Swain, 
Abram R. Wing, 
Lydia Worth. 

Having cleared their garments of the spurious Gurney- 
ites the Fair Street Meeting, although reduced in numbers, 
cheerfully travelled on like Gideon's famous army which, 
though reduced from thirty thousand to three hundred, yet 
put the enemy to flight. 

The most prominent minister, Christopher C. Hussey, 
was disowned for doctrinal reasons and afterwards became 
a member of the Gurney Meeting. 

Disownments for all the ancient causes were accom- 
plished as often as an instance occurred. 

In 1856. One member failed to pay his just debts and 
otherwise conducted his pecuniary affairs in a disreputable 

1858. Two brothers had married women not members. 

1862. A member had been sailing in an armed vessel 
and engaged i n war. 

1864. A member had neglected the meetings and 
allowed a musical instrument in his house, and permitted 
his daughter to practice thereon. 

1868. Several members neglected the meeting. 

1869. A member married a man out of the meeting. 
1871. Three members were attending meetings of an- 
other society. 

1878. One member for ne<>'lectin£ meetings and one for 
marrying out of the meeting. 



A member had neglected the meetings. 
A member had neglected the meetings. 

o fc> 

A member had neglected the meetings. 
A member had neglected the meetings. 
A member had married a man out of the meet- 


Since 1845 ten marriages took place. 

1847. Samuel D. Otis to Elizabeth Gorham. 

1847. John Folger to Phebe Coffin. 

1849. William MeKeel to Mary Gorham. 

1850. Obed B. Swain to Susan Ilussey. 

1854. John Boadle to Hannah M. Heaton. 

1855. Benjamin Tucker to Mary S. Paddack. 
1870. William MeKeel to Martha G. Hussey. 
1876. Thomas Leigh to Elizabeth Foster. 
1878. Morton A. Wamesly to Abbie L. Chase. 
1887. John H. Foster to Mary E. Sinkinson. 

A singular incident is recorded concerning the ministry 
of Narcissa B. Coffin. 

"10 mo., 24, 1858. This meeting after a time of 
weighty deliberation has united with the women in ap- 
proving the gift and public appearance in the ministry of 
Narcissa B. Coffin." 

"7 mo., 28, 1864. She was deposed and silenced by 
the Nantucket Meeting 'for not keeping on the watch and 
abiding in a state of humility and abasedness of self.'" 

She was a woman of a high order of ability, and none 
ever came into her presence without receiving a delight- 
ful impression. The Quaker society at^ Nantucket was 
fortunate in having a person among their members who 
could so persuasively present the principles of Quakerism, 
and they were indeed rich if they could dispense with the 
services of such a woman. Inquiry was made for the rea- 
son she was deposed. Answer was made that she went 


"before her guide." This may have meant that she made 
preparation beforehand for some sermon. 

8 mo., 88, 1881). After twenty-five years of silence 
Narcissa B. Collin was restored to her ministry in the 
Nantucket Meeting. 

This was done in a dwelling house in Lynn, and 
it ought not to remain unrecorded that they were all dead 
who silenced her a quarter of a century before. She 
immediately conducted a most successful missionary tour 
through the Scandinavian peninsular, giving strong evi- 
dence of the great amount of work she had been com- 
pelled to leave undone. 

After the separation in 1845, the Wilbur party organ- 
ized meetings throughout New England wherever their 
numbers would allow, and these were called "smaller 
bodies," in distinction from the large Gurney bodies. 
These "smaller bodies" in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, 
Central New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were in 
unity with each other, when another curious division took 
place that exerted an important influence on the Nantucket 

The controversy occurred in the Central New York 
Meeting at Scipio in relation to a publication by that 
meeting of the journal of Joseph Hoag. In the original 
work Hoag had made some remarks derogatory to the 
temper and judgment of Job Otis, who lived in New Bed- 
ford during the early part of this century, and then moved 
to Scipio and continued to be one of the strictest of 
American Friends. He was highly respected by those 
whose censorious tastes inclined them toward a rigid and 
severe discipline. Hoag was a Quaker minister of great 
fame, whose views were not unlike those of Otis, but 
whose temper and judgment were much more pacific. 

In 1858 the Scipio Yearly Meeting decided to publish 
the journal, and the matter was left to a committee. The 



friends of the Otis family desired to omit the criticism o( 
job Otis. The other members of the committee thought 
it best to publish the book with no omissions. 

When the matter became fully known the members of 
this Yearly Meeting became divided into about two equal 
parties, the one party composed of the Otis family and 
their sympathizers, under the lead of James Otis, desired 
to have suppressed the criticism written by Joseph Hoag. 
The other party, under the lead of John King, claimed 
that if the journal was published at all it should be pub- 
lished entire. These two parties separated in 1859, and 
each party constituted a separate Yearly Meeting, the one 
with James Otis as clerk commonly known as the Otis 
Meeting, and the other with John King as clerk commonly 
called the King Meeting. 

Each of these meetings sought to obtain the support and 
recognition of the Wilbur Meeting in New England. For 
several years the New England Meeting, of which Peleg 
Mitchell was clerk, declined to approve either the Otis or 
the King Meeting, as no point of doctrine or discipline 
was involved. It was a difficult question to decide, for if 
they decided that the book should be published entire, 
there would appear a criticism on one of their leaders. If, 
on the other hand, they approved the suppression, they 
would be discreditably covering up an important statement 
of an eye witness. 

But in 1863 the question demanded decision, and it 
resulted in a division of the New England Meeting. 
About forty of them, a small part of the meeting, withdrew 
and under the leadership of Peleg Mitchell of Nantucket 
and Nathan Page of Danvers, formed a separate Meeting 
that at once approved and recognized the Otis Meeting of 
New York. The Wilburites that remained, recognized 
the Kino; Meeting. The Nantucket Meeting as a whole 
was almost unanimously in favor of the Otis party. No 


other New England Meeting went that way. So that there 
were scattered over New England on the main land, 
Wilburite Quakers who had favored the Otis party in New 
York and were not in unity with their own meetings. 
There was Nathan Page of Danvers, the Oliver fam- 
ily in Lynn, and the Foster family in Rhode Island. The 
Nantucket Meeting alone in New England held their 
views. So these persons joined the Nantucket Meeting. 
Thus the Nantucket Society separated itself from all other 
New England bodies and became in fact the only "Otis" 
Meeting in New England. These additions restored con- 
siderable vigor to the struggling society. For at this time 
it was weak and its numbers few. 

But it was thought best to maintain a smaller Meeting 
House. When they undertook to sell the real estate they 
found that the property was claimed by the Center Street 
Meeting. So they came to an understanding and both 
Meetings joined in the deed, selling the whole Fair 
Street property to Alfred Macy. Then the Fair Street 
Meeting bought back the north part and transformed the 
school house into a meeting house. This change took place 
in the summer and autumn of 1864. From the beginning 
of the meeting, 4th mo. 28, 1708. Men and Women 
held separate meetings. 11 mo. 26, 1868. As their 
numbers had so diminished it was decided that their meet- 
ings should be held together. 

In the spring of 1894 as only one member of the Meet- 
ing lived at Nantucket it was decided to sell the Meeting 
House. It was therefore sold in Jime, 1894, to the Nan- 
tucket Historical Society. At this time the membership 
of the Nantucket Monthly Meeting of Friends comprised 
twenty-three persons, only two of whom were born at 
Nantucket. One lived at Nantucket, one in Boston, one in 
Danvers, ten in Lynn, and the same number in Provi- 
dence. If they had not received those additions in 1803, 


the Meeting would now contain but two persons, one man 
and one woman, each well advanced in years. 

When the Meeting House was sold, the books of records, 
containing much valuable information about deaths, births 
and marriages of Nantucket people, were transported from 
the Island and are now in the custody of James VV. Oliver 
in Lynn. 

So the Nantucket Monthly Meeting of Friends is now a 
misnomer. It began at Nantucket about the year 1700 
and when the year 1900 opens, there may not be left on 
the Island a single Friend. 

The dominant members of the Nantucket Society, who 
controlled and directed its movements, seemed not to ap- 
preciate why the Creator painted the morning and evening 
sky ; colored the woods ; bestowed on the birds of the air 
matchless gifts of form, color and song ; caused the lilies 
of the field to grow in glory beyond the reach of earthly 
wisdom ; created man in his own image and placed him in 
this fair world with a mind demanding for its happiness to 
behold the splendors that surround him, to listen to the 
music that comes on the wings of the wind and in joy to 
open his heart in song, so they banished from human life 
much innocent and wholesome pleasure and forbid atten- 
tion to the beauties of form, color and song. The penalty 
came and Friends have almost disappeared from Nan- 

If they had adopted more liberal terms of fellowship ; if 
their religious services had been more varied ; if the gift 
of preaching had been more encouraged and less ham- 
pered ; if they had established a better proportioned theol- 
ogy ; if they had not obscured or undervalued any portion 
of Divine Truth, wherever revealed ; if they had abandoned 
their discipline and allowed the laws of the land to deal 
with offenders ; if instead of expelling members for trivial 
offences, they had exercised towards them a wise charity ; 


if instead of maintaining their society as an organization 
composed of men and women who never departed from 
rectitude, it had been regarded as a portion of the church 
of Christ, in which were men and women of every degree 
of moral acquirements ; if their beautiful system of sim- 
plicity had been built on the rock and not on sandy foun- 
dations, they might have been as vigorous today as they 
were a century ago. 

6440 1